Plane interiors and beehives have one very important thing in common: an interior honeycomb structure. You could also argue for something else they have in common: they can both be pretty noisy.

The honeycomb structure that makes up the floor and ceiling materials of commercial planes provides a lot of strength for it’s minimal weight, but one of the main drawbacks is its lack of sound dampening.

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While weight is a primary concern in any aircraft, noise control is also a factor in the modern passenger plane. Is there a way to retain and improve these factors? It may all depend on the material, or in this case, metamaterial.

Image Source: Quartz

Performance Enhancements Through Metamaterials
Metamaterials are synthetically created materials that possess properties and offer unique performances not found in natural materials. In the case of a quiet, lightweight airplane, you’re looking for a strong, lightweight, easy to manufacture material that also provides an enhanced degree of sound damping.

That’s what North Carolina State University’s Yun Jing and his team, which included researchers from NC State and MIT, sought to create and potentially use as a new insulator membrane for airplanes.

Image Source: Quartz

Scaling Up For Big Sound Reduction
By incorporating latex into the honeycomb structure of airplane interior materials, Yun and his team were able reflect sound waves and cut down noise by 20 decibels. The noise control improvement only added a 6% weight increase to the honeycomb structure.

As Yun explained, the noise reduction is equivalent to lowering the volume of a noisy road down to the sound of a single running washing machine. While sound dampening metamaterials for this type of application have been produced before at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the latest development, now coming from North Carolina State University, blocks a wider range of frequencies.

As a result, it has greater potential for use in actual industrial applications, provided this metamaterial’s testing and production can be scaled up.

More Peaceful Flights In The Future
As aircraft manufacturers will have the opportunity to take the new metamaterial to the next level, it may someday make your flight experience a little more peaceful. This development is also another testament to how material innovation, as well as design, is playing a primary role in better products, structures, and modes of transportation.

Were you familiar with the concept of metamaterials before you heard about this development? Tell us your thoughts on this aviation material improvement in the comments.

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